Americap Comes of Age

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Now that prominent regattas East, Midwest and West have tried Americap and will return to it in 2003, you have to figure this attempt by US Sailing to engineer a mid-tier rule might have a shot. Not because there are scads of sailors demanding it, but because there are race committees that need it.

Chicago YC tested Americap in the 2002 Chicago-Mackinac Race to move away from performance handicapping. The club's Shawn O’Neill said: "The Mac draws boats from different areas, even a few internationals. It’s our signature race, and we need a measurement system that removes as much human bias as possible."

The 2003 Mac will be run under Americap, with even one designs required to be rated so that they can compete for overall trophies. All but 20-30 of the expected 300 entries are types already in the Americap database (most boats are, including the Beneteau 40.7 pictured here) and will not require full measurement. US Sailing, however, wants all boats measured for freeboard because displacement (and waterline) vary under individual owners. To avoid the worst traumas of mass measurement, Chicago YC is arranging easy freeboard measurements, and US Sailing will issue temporary certificates to Mac entries who resist even that. But there's a catch, offshore director Dan Nowlan says: "If they don't get measured, they'll be rated at the fastest-possible value."

San Francisco YC and St. Francis YC both ran used Americap in 2002, including the time-allowance divisions of the 2002 Big Boat Series where results, unfortunately, were not definitive. There were only 20 rated boats and some of them sailed outside the "curve." John MacLaurin's slick Pendragon IV won the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy but was off the charts when it hit planing mode. MacLaurin got worked up about sailing at 19 knots but not about Americap. He said, "I just told Laurie Davidson to design a fast boat." Now US Sailing is reviewing ratings for planing boats. 2003 numbers will reflect extrapolations while the Institute for Marine Dynamics, Newfoundland, analyzes break-loose sailing.

New York YC used Americap exclusively for its annual cruise and will probably repeat in 2003. "In the past we had too many systems," George Hinman said. "With everybody under Americap, we had fuller classes, and that was very enjoyable." Kimball Livingston

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